Spring brings fire danger; be careful when burning near dry grass, brush or leaves

Contact: Paul Rogers, 616-260-8406
Agency: Natural Resources

March 12, 2021

The ground may look damp and muddy, but grass and brush are dry in spring even if the ground is wet. That means fire can spread fast.

“Everybody wants to get out and clean up their yard, but it’s important check conditions before burning and to understand how dry these fuels on the ground are,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan, and some fires already have scorched Lower Michigan landscapes, including a 432-acre fire in the state's Thumb region.

Open burning is allowed where the ground is still snow-covered. Otherwise, a free burn permit is required. Burn permits in the southern Lower Peninsula are issued by local fire departments and government offices. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, residents can check the map at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit to see if debris/open burning is permitted in their counties.  

Rogers urged people to be careful when burning yard debris, enjoying campfires or doing other outdoor activities, especially those that include heat or gas-powered engines. Among the DNR’s recommendations:

  • Place your charcoal grill on a hard surface such as a concrete driveway rather than on the lawn, where a spark or loose coal could ignite dry grass.
  • Keep an eye out while using chainsaws and lawn mowers, because a spark from the blade could start a fire.
  • Be careful when using all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery. Heat from a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an ATV can ignite dry grass. A trailer chain dragging on pavement also can create sparks that ignite grass.
  • Never leave any fire unattended, even for a moment. Make sure all debris and campfires are fully extinguished before leaving the area.

Learn more about specific fire danger by region or find fire prevention tips.